We all have a go-to position for sleeping. Straight on our back. On our belly. Or on the favorite side – the left or right. And there is everything in between. These postures go a long way in determining the quality of sleep, and how it affects the rest of our body. It is not just about the hours of sleep or the timings.

Is one sleep position more favorable than the other? “We could argue that some are better,” says Dr. Rachel Salas, an Associate Professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “But there are caveats.” If not monitored, some of these sleep positions can lead to a range of health challenges like aches/ pains, to even sleep apnea and even Parkinson’s Disease. Let’s look at which ones can we rely on.

  • Sleeping on the side. If you are recovering from any form of back pain, then this is the most recommended option. Infact, sleeping on the side, right or left, is the most preferred posture by adults, and this inclination starts around early adulthood. In particular, a preference for right-side sleeping emerges during older adulthood. There are indications that this may be a way of protecting heart function during sleep. That’s a big plus. Also, according to Dr. Salas, positioning yourself on your side can help the airways stay open to reduce snoring and alleviate mild apnea.

Tip: Choose a pillow so your neck and shoulders are well supported, as these two parts bear the brunt of side sleeping. Check for firmness, the pillow material, and even a size, which you feel good sleeping on. You’ll know within a week or 10 days of using a pillow.

  • Sleeping on the stomach. Considered the least popular, this posture can lead to severe spine health issues. The reason is that the middle part of your body has the most weight, and sleeping on the stomach makes it difficult for the spine to maintain a neutral position. This stress on the spine leads to increased stress on the rest of your body, and also to pain as the spine is a pipeline for the nerves. It could also result in numbness and tingling.

Tip: If you have a habit of sleeping this way and find it difficult to change, try letting go of the pillow. This reduces curving of the spine. Or slip a pillow under your hip, for the same reason. But, if you consistently wake up feeling sore, then change the posture.

  • Sleeping on the back. As the Cleveland Clinic explains, sleeping on your back is good for the spine as gravity keeps your body centered over it. This reduces unnecessary pressure on your back or joints. Unless you sustain any other injury, you won’t be dealing with back pain. But, we also know that this position predisposes people to snoring the most. Moreover, if you already have back problems, getting into this posture might be difficult.

Tip: Use a pillow under your knees, to reduce any incline, and level the body as much as possible. This posture’s success also depends on the mattress. Softer foam mattresses are a bane, as the body sinks into them. Go for firmer mattresses that can hold up your body.

Much as the posture in which we sleep is a matter of habit, being aware of it is the first step towards preventing strains and improving the quality of rest. If you feel the need to change the posture in which you rest, contact your doctor for guidance on how to go about it.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash